Costco Shootout: Curved vs. Flat
Costco has multiple TVs all lined up side by side. Some are worth comparing to each other, some are like comparing a Ferrari to a Kia. Both great for their own purpose and budget, but not at all similar enough to be compared. We happened to stumble into a Costco recently that had two 55 inch 4K LCD TVs side by side, one curved and one flat. And you can imagine we saw the challenge in that.
We decided, right then and there, to do our own shootout of Curved TVs and Flat TVs, all other factors being the same. Both TVs in this case were made by Samsung. Both were side by side on industrial shelves with horrible fluorescent lighting. Both seemed to be set to the default, full bright, dynamic/showroom setting. Neither were professionally calibrated for sure. Both were 4k; both were LCD.
As of this recording, Costco.com has multiple Curved and Flat TV sets available online. We compared two Samsung 55” TVs. They also have 65” versions of both styles available. There are many 55” models available at Costco.com two of them are the same ones we saw in store:
As you can imagine, both televisions are visually stunning, even without being calibrated. Both are 4K or Ultra HD sets, so the clarity of the picture was impeccable. Neither showed any signs of pixelation nor motion blur. The colors on both sets were very good. Neither showed like an OLED TV, but neither showed like the overly bright, washed out colors of the LCD TVs of yesteryear. Both can produce very respectable black levels – we aren’t talking Kuro plasma – but a solid ‘A’ for effort.
No detail is ever lost in a dark scene; everything shows up with perfect detail. Which leads us to the actually clarity and detail in the picture. With the HD demo content we saw, the TV looked perfect. It was probably either a Blu-ray playing or a Blu-ray quality demo feed, so with high-quality 1080p the TVs are both amazing. We can only imagine that native 4k content will look at least as good and probably even better. We didn’t see any overly compressed HD or standard definition content on the screen, but it stands to reason that both TVs would perform just like any other HDTV with ugly input. Garbage in, garbage out.
To Curve or Not to Curve
That is the question. If you buy the hype, and they typical price bump you see on curved TVs, you would naturally assume the curved set is better for some reason. Maybe not an important reason, but at least for some reason. The typical reason you get is that the picture will look more natural, because the screen matches the curve of your eye. From our side-by-side comparison, that was not true at all. From straight on, it was nearly impossible to tell a difference in picture quality or overall viewing experience.
Moving away from a straight-on viewing angle the TVs did differentiate a little. The flat model seems to hold the most consistent off-angle viewing experience, while the curved TV could look different from wide angles. We couldn’t tell for sure if the curve itself just reduce the off angle capabilities of the TV, or if some of the differences were similar to the geometric issues the cnet author mentioned, but either way, the flat TV had a better off-angle experience.
Some articles online report the curved TV is better for a room with a lot of ambient light, the curve minimizes the reflection surface. Other sites claim the exact opposite, that the ambient light is reflected in strange, fun-house, hall of mirrors style – distorting the reflection and making it even more distracting. We had the same, consistent florescent lighting for both, so we weren’t able to really verify either point of view. In our observations, they were roughly the same on ambient light reflection.
In our limited test and sample, we came to the same conclusion cnet came to, the curve is cosmetic. There’s no real benefit in viewing experience nor picture quality on the curved screen. If anything, it reduces where you can use the screen by wanting to have the vast majority of your viewers coming from a straight-on seating position. Curved is like 3D: if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Have a blast. But if you end up buying a flat TV instead of a curved one, you certainly aren’t missing out on anything.
Posted by The HT Guys, July 24, 2015 1:49 AM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.